CISPA: Cybersecurity Bill May Pit Online Safety Against Privacy

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While all the focus was on SOPA and PIPA, the so-called Internet piracy bills in Congress, there's a new piece of technology-related legislation that may prove to be just as controversial. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, passed the U.S. House of Representatives late Thursday, and now heads to the Senate.

If enacted, it would increase the information that is shared between the government and technology companies, giving each protection to share confidential information with one another in the interest of warding off cyberthreats.

Previously, this hasn't been the case -- government information was classified and companies feared violating antitrust laws.

With the passage of CISPA, however, the government could share that information with private companies to help them protect their networks. And --this angers privacy advocates -- companies could share information about its users and its networks with the government.

The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 248 to 168, with a Republican majority.

Proponents of the bill, such as Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., who introduced it, said the sharing of information would allow the government and the proper agencies to address cyberthreats quickly.

But opponents, including President Obama, say they are worried about consumer privacy and the scope of sharing between the government and independent technology companies.

Obama has threatened to veto the bill. "The administration strongly opposes H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, in its current form," Obama's Office of Management and Budget said in a statement earlier this week. "If H.R. 3523 were presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill."

Jared Polis, D-Colo., has been particularly outspoken on the measure. "If this bill is enacted, there is nothing to stop companies from sharing their customers' private information with every branch of the government, including the military. Allowing the military to spy on American citizens, on American soil, goes against every principle this nation stands for," Polis said in a statement.

An anti-CISPA petition on Avaaz.org already has more than 773,000 signatures.

That said, many technology companies, such as Microsoft, AT&T and Facebook, which opposed SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA, the Protect IP Act, support CISPA. Unlike the SOPA and PIPA controversies, no major websites have threatened or planned to go dark. Or at least they haven't yet. But a lot may yet happen as the bill heads to the Senate.

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